For the literary fans amongst you, madeleines may evoke thoughts of Proust. For me, they are an integral part of the most fabulous petit fours I have ever had in Paris over ten years ago, where these babies were like little clouds on my tongue.
Until about a month ago, I had never made madeleines. In the back of my mind, these beautifully delicate shell-like cakes have been linked to the category of very tricky baking and patisserie and something that needs hours to prepare. They are also made with a genoise sponge, which I rarely make as it does not keep for very long .
An important breakfast meeting prompted the need to make something a little more delicate than bacon sandwiches and so I was inspired to try them. Since then, hundreds have seen their way through my kitchen. I would like to attribute this to the fact that I have been so diligent in preparing this recipe that I have made multiple batches, just for testing, but it is more the fault of Michel Roux Jr, who states in his recipe that they should be eaten within an hour of cooking.
Based on a genoise sponge, these little shell cakes are made with little fat, lots of eggs and even more elbow grease. This is unless you have an electric mixer, in which case it is the work of moments. The result is a mouthful full of rich, buttery flavour and featherlight texture. Michel Roux Jr is correct in his assertion that they should be eaten soon after baking. Not only are they even better eaten warm, but as time goes on, the delicate internal fluffiness starts to collapse, making them denser and slightly chewy. Therefore, although they are very easy and quick to make, you need to time them so they are consumed in their optimal state.
The only specialist equipment you will need is a madeleine tray. Purists may prefer a metal one, but after trying both, I find a silicone one makes it easier to remove the cakes while they are warm. I like a hint of lemon in mine, but you could add orange zest and a little juice, or honey. Another great addition is to full the shell section of the tray halfway, add a little raspberry jam and cover with more batter on top. This is the basic recipe, but the only limit is your imagination.
Makes about 15
2 free-range eggs
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 lemon, juice and zest
¾ tsp baking powder
100g butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing
1.Preheat the oven to 200°C. Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.
2. Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until they become much lighter in colour and very frothy.
3. Lightly whisk in the remaining ingredients. Leave to stand for 20 minutes before carefully pouring into the prepared madeleine tray.
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through.
5. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly. Depending on how many sections your tray has, you may need to do more than one batch. These are best eaten within an hour of cooking.